Charge added in Confederate re-enactors pepper spraying case

The Sons of Confederate Veterans march in the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade in Newton on Thursday.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans march in the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade in Newton on Thursday. WBTV

Police on Friday issued another charge against a man accused of pepper spraying Confederate veteran re-enactors during the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade in Newton on Thursday.

Newton police arrested Karl Philip Smith, 56, of Morganton and charged him with two counts of misdemeanor assault. He was released by a magistrate on a written promise to appear in court.

On Friday, police said Smith also was cited for “failure to disclose to any law enforcement officer that the person holds a valid permit and is carrying a concealed handgun when approached or addressed by the officer.” That charge is an infraction per N.C. statute, police said.

Smith didn’t return two phone messages left by the Observer at his home on Friday.

Two victims were treated at the scene for pepper spray exposure and released, Newton police said.

Two parade participants notified police at 5:34 p.m. that a man armed with pepper spray was following the re-enactors. Witnesses told police that when the re-enactors stopped to fire their weapons, the man discharged pepper spray at them.

Witnesses pointed out the man to police, who immediately took him into custody without incident.

Police seized a small canister of pepper spray and a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver from Smith. He had a valid conceal carry permit for the firearm, police said.

“This was the only incident during the entire week of Reunion events,” police said in a statement late Thursday. “With the assistance of numerous emergency response agencies, the Newton Police Department considers the 2017 Soldiers Reunion a successful event.”

The 125th Soldiers Reunion is believed to be the longest-running U.S. patriotic celebration not based on a holiday. The event pays tribute to past and present U.S. military personnel.

An agreement last year allowed only the Sons of Confederate Veterans to display Confederate flags as they marched in the parade, Observer news partner WBTV reported. Members of the group said they would follow the same agreement this year.

Jerry McCombs, president of the Catawba County chapter of the NAACP, told WBTV that his group would not attend the parade as long as Confederate flags are displayed. “We do not like what it represents,” he said.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak